RALEIGH, N.C. — Matt Martin was one of 10 Islanders on the ice for an optional practice on Wednesday at PNC Arena. And the longstanding fourth-liner was activated off injured reserve on Tuesday.
But neither necessarily equates to Martin being ready to rejoin the lineup coming off an upper-body injury. The Islanders continue a three-game road trip on Thursday night against the Hurricanes after blowing a two-goal lead in the third period and having their 3-0-3 streak snapped in Tuesday night’s 5-4 loss to the Devils.
“Pretty close,” Martin told Newsday after practice. “Day by day with how I’m feeling. Definitely progressing. I’ll probably be ready pretty soon. But, until you’re ready, you never really know.
“I was away from the group for a while, too, so I’m trying to get some skates in with the guys. Bumping around in practice is a good gauge for how it’s going.”
Coach Lane Lambert said Martin was activated off IR for Tuesday’s game as a “safety precaution” after Simon Holmstrom and Cal Clutterbuck missed Monday’s practice because of illness. Both wound up dressing against the Devils.
Seldom-used Julien Gauthier has spent the last two games in Martin’s usual spot on Casey Cizikas’ left wing along with Clutterbuck. It marked the first time this season the speedy Gauthier — who has dressed for just four games — has played in consecutive matches.
He logged 10:48 with two shots and his secondary assist on Clutterbuck’s second-period goal marked his first point as an Islander.
So perhaps it’s not a gimme that Martin is re-inserted even if he’s feeling 100%.
“I thought he played well,” Lambert said of Gauthier. “He skates. He’s a big body. He’s been physical. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do in the two games he’s played. A couple of great chances, certainly against Philadelphia [Saturday’s 1-0 shootout loss at UBS Arena].”
Pressed on whether Gauthier could compete for Martin’s spot in the lineup, Lambert said, “We’ll see how it plays out but we’re in the business of winning hockey games and we’ll put whatever lineup we feel is the best to win that game and that’s where the internal competition comes in and that drives guys. So that’s good.”
Martin, in his 12th season with the Islanders and 14th NHL season overall, is averaging a team-low 8:27 of ice time and has logged more than 10 minutes just once in his last seven games.
“Injuries never come at a good time,” Martin said. “But it’s part of the game and I’ve dealt with plenty of them in the past. Some days are good and then you’ll wake up the next day and it’s a little sore. I’m trying to be patient with it and get healthy.”
Notes & quotes: Lambert said there was no update on defenseman Sebastian Aho (upper body), who was placed on IR on Saturday . . . Captain Anders Lee is expected to play in his 700th NHL game on Thursday. Said Lee, “It’s still mind-boggling a little bit to play hockey this long.”